Mary Shelley uses many different narrators inside her story, including Walton, through letters, followed by Victor, and in Volume 2, the Monster themselves. It has various effects on the flow of the story, and its main effect is that it helps the reader to understand the characters in the novel much more easily and also provide the perspectives of various people, to get a feel of what society was at that time, and also to break certain stigmas that were present at that time.
This can be seen in all three narrators in the book- Robert Walton, another fellow mad scientist, Victor, the protagonist and the Monster, the main antagonist. Firstly, the main use of Walton in the story helps us understand how a scientist during that time period perceives another scientist with the same intentions and sacrifices as himself.
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This is because in those ages, when we think of scientists, people often think that they are mad and abandon all of their families and their humane qualities in the quest for unlocking the ultimate secrets of nature- for Walton, the true magnetic North and for Victor, the ultimate goal of being able to “play god”. But however, this is not true. For example, when Victor arrives at Walton’s ship, Walton kindly helps and tries to care for Victor until he has fully recuperated. He also writes in his letters about Victor’s conditions to Mrs.
Saville and in his letters in the last chapter, said “my chief attention was occupied by my unfortunate guest”(Page 218) and also, he makes friendly ties with Victor, so that Victor can tell his unfortunate tale completely. Hence, by showing all of these humane qualities between the two, and also by showing how they become friends and care for each other, Shelley wants to break the social stigma of that time that scientists are all bad due to the horrendous acts they commit- for example, stealing bodies from the grave, to the point that they no longer have any human traits.
Therefore, the use of Walton as a narrator helps us understand how scientists view each other at that time and also to show how the perception of the general public is flawed. Next, the writer uses the narrative perspective of Victor to make us understand how a mad scientist sees himself, and also to see how a “mad scientist” is not always mentally ill from the beginning, but rather has good intentions that go haywire.
Furthermore, the usage of first-person perspective makes us able to understand Victor’s feelings in a better way rather than if a third person narrator was used. This is shown by Victors’ true intentions such as the main aim of building the monster- to relieve the grief felt from the departure of loved ones. However, it turns haywire, which is instantly realised when we encounter Victor’s dream of him kissing his beloved Elizabeth, then followed by the dying corpse of his own mother. That is when everything begins to go wrong.
His feelings is also pronounced- for example, we can see what was going through Victor’s mind when the Monster tried to persuade him to create a female monster- He compassionated at his words but immediately felt disgusted when he saw the Monster’s face. By showing all of these aspects of Victor’s initial good intentions, she aims, again to break the social stigma that “mad scientists” are all mad from birth and have no good will, by showing Victor’s innocent childhood and also how his monster was built on good intentions.
Furthermore, we can also delve deeper into the mad scientists’ mind by the usage of the first person narrator, enabling us to see his feelings and thoughts at any moment, discovering the real feelings of Victor- trying to hide from the worry of failure and also its adverse effects, and also his initial desire to succeed at all costs- to “prove his detractors wrong. ” Hence, as a result, we get a better understanding of what a “mad scientist” is like in those times and find that it was not as bad as people often imagined.
Finally, the usage of the Monster as a narrator makes us understand what happens when a man tries to “play god” and imitate a human- what will the creation feel? The usage of the Monster as an abandoned creation by its creator despite its relative “success” also shows the perspective of young orphans, and reflects a common trend in the society at that time. This is shown in many ways- for example, when the Monster gathers firewood for the family but is hated by everyone instead, and also how he feels dejected at the very behaviour of the people.
He also eventually escalates to the point of getting revenge once his appeal for a female monster is rejected. The overall effect of this is that we get a reflection on the society at that time being too orientated on looks, and also how the novel scrutinises it by Shelley’s clever writing which makes us sympathise the ugly Monster, whereas we see every other person in the book looks at him in disgust. Also, we can better understand the feelings of a “failure” in the society such as orphans whom have no companion and anyone to look after them, and is continually looked down upon by the society.
As a result, we can better understand the Monster’s role and his significance in the society at that time by using him as the first narrator. In conclusion, Mary Shelley uses the three narrators in a Mise-en-Abyne fashion to slowly delve deeper into the story, and in the process, understand the three narrators, whom are characters in a first-hand manner. Shelley also uses these three characters which have unique roles as narrators to help her break certain social stigmas present at that time. But overall, the usage of various narrators in the book helps us understand the story better.